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Metaverse is too focused on VR and needs to keep it real, says Niantic CEO

Metaverse is too focused on VR

A recent interview (via the AP) with the CEO of Niantic has the company boss saying metaverse is too focused on VR – and it needs to keep it real to succeed.

John Hanke’s work on projects like Google Earth, StreetView, Ingress, and Pokemon Go informs his vision of a metaverse that incorporates Augmented Reality instead of Meta’s vision of VR-led development.

When asked his opinion of Zuckerberg’s vision of the metaverse, Hanke said that he didn’t believe it represented “the future of technology and certainly not the future of humanity.”

He theorized that their approach to metaverse development was a reaction to COVID lockdowns forcing people to stay home and spend most of their time on Netflix and Roblox. Before the pandemic, he remarked that technological development centered around “doing stuff in the world,” mentioning Yelp and Google Maps as examples of this in action.

Along that train of thought, Hanke elaborated on his vision of a “real world metaverse” that involves a portable device enhancing real experiences through augmented reality. Although his company’s flagship project, Pokemon Go, already uses AR to great effect, he gave an example of further implementations that incorporate senses other than sight:

If you were gazing at a painting of cherry blossoms in the museum, if I could waft the smell of those blossoms to you, that would be a great use of AR. Some of it can come through phones, some of it can come through other devices.

From Hanke’s perspective, these potential approaches to the metaverse offer something more closely tailored to the human experience. It also sidesteps the latency bottlenecks outlined in Meta’s recent blog post that were blamed for the company’s disappointing progress.

Perhaps he’s right, and a focus on enhancing real experiences instead of attempting to poorly imitate them with bulky headsets could deflect some of the major criticisms leveled at the metaverse as a concept.

Editor’s Note: Image via Reuters. This is Niche Gamer Tech. In this column, we regularly cover tech and things related to the tech industry. Please leave feedback and let us know if there’s tech or a story you want us to cover!


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Michael Valverde is a freelance writer and editor. His favorite video game is Half-Life.